If “press freedom” were truly an issue relevant to ordinary Filipinos, then it would have been a cornerstone of many a politicians’ campaign platform today. But it isn’t, and the reason it isn’t doesn’t come across as much of a surprise.
Ordinary Filipinos wouldn’t have the time nor the brain space to critically evaluate “journalism” — because “press freedom” has nothing to do with where their next meal or next paycheck comes from. On the other hand, crime, drugs, and peace and order do. It so happens that the messaging and actions of Rodrigo Duterte the candidate then the President remained consistent to those things important to Filipinos throughout. This is why he won an important election and remains powerful, influential, and popular to this day.
This is a basic lesson in democratic politics the once-mighty Liberal Party only belatedly learned and are only now applying in the campaign lead-up to this year’s elections.
All those high-fallutin’ concepts — “human rights”, “equality”, and, yes, “press freedom” are of no consequence to the ordinary Filipino voter. In fact, an inordinate amount of focus on those notions cost the LP an entire nation back in 2016. Thus it is easy to see now why many politicians are smart enough not to touch with a ten-foot pole this latest circus surrounding Rappler CEO Maria Ressa’s arrest on charges of libel.
Whilst a lot of shrill noise is being kicked up by Ressa’s snowflake supporters on social media and by the odd handful that actually troop to the streets in 1980s-era style “rallies”, the data tells a different story. In the midst of the frenzy on that night Ressa was picked up from her office at Rappler by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) serving her arrest warrant, hashtags and terms associated with showbiz and Valentine’s Day continued to dominate social media’s top “trending” lists. Neither Ressa nor anything about “press freedom” made it to the Philippines’ top search terms on Google over that same period. The reality is, nobody gives a shit about Ressa nor her shrill “assault on press freedom” sloganeering.
If there is no evidence of a critical mass of interest in Ressa’s “plight” amongst Filipinos who have access to the Internet, how much more such interest could possibly be expected coming from the broader mass of Filipinos who aren’t as online?
Here we see in Ressa’s most recent crybaby drama just another one of those flypaper issues that the Opposition’s foremost “thought leaders” waste precious time and bandwidth buzzing around and getting stuck on. It is no wonder they lost touch of the pulse of their constituents. They focus too much on elitist ideological notions and less on the down-to-earth basic essentials that occupy the attention of most Filipinos.
Oh and there is also that small inconvenient fact of the matter — that “press freedom” is not and was never “under threat” to begin with. There’s simply no evidence nor any data to support this ululation that Ressa continues to dishonestly propagate.
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